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07 January 4:27 pm

On Monday, I rang up the Fire's latest addition midfielder Joel Lindpere.

While you should definitely read this story talking about his desire to move from New York to Chicago, I've also included some other quotes below...

What are your thoughts on the Chicago Fire coming off of last year?

"I think the team is getting stronger day-by-day and I’m just pleased to see it. They have a good crowd, good coach and good team so it wasn’t difficult to make my choice. I’m happy to join the club and I’d like to give something more to it.

"I think every player is capable of making their team stronger and so I want to give something towards the team’s improvement. They have guys in the club that have been in the U.S. National team and it shows in the quality they had last season."


Lindpere will no longer be scoring against the Fire

With 97 out of a possible 98 MLS regular season appearances for New York, you've played in more games than any other MLS player the last three seasons. What do you have to say about your health and consistency to see the field?

"I’ve really been trying to be smart so I’ve had injury issues and I’m really trying to avoid hard fields and artificial grounds but I’m trying to take part in every training session, it doesn’t matter how.

"For every player the most important thing is to play games. To be fit you need to practice but sometimes you need to be smart to avoid all these injuries and happenings. I don’t know how its been possible but the last two seasons I took part in every single MLS game. Last year I was the only one to take part in 37 games [regular season and playoffs] and it was the same in 2011. Nobody can say I'm not giving my all to be on the field every game.

"The thing is, I just want to be useful for the team and if I can give even just a couple minutes for the team rather than push too hard and be injured, then I think its smarter to be fit and give something to the team. I think I’ve been good at it and that’s the way I should continue."

You tallied three goals in your first four matches against the Fire... I think we're all glad you're now on our side...

"(Laughs) It doesn’t matter where or who you score against so long as you score. I’ve scored some important goals and one of them was against Chicago in the opening of Red Bull Arena [in 2010].

"I’ve been scoring goals against different teams and then its good now I can try to score for them. This must be part of the reason for my move."

What have you taken away in your early discussions with Frank Klopas?

"My aim in leaving Red Bull was to play centrally and I know that I have a partner in the midfield that I would love to play with and if we find communication, I know I can play really well in the heart of midfield.

"I really think Frank welcomes me to the club as a central midfielder and that’s my wish and reason to join the club. That’s the thing I was missing at Red Bull and I’m so happy that if the coach sees me in this position that I’m ready to take the challenge."

WATCH: Lindpere scores first MLS goal vs. Fire at Red Bull Arena – 3/27/2010

07 January 10:20 am

Atletico Madrid
Atletico came away with a 1-1 draw away to bottom-of-the-table Mallorca this past weekend. After going up 1-0 through Raul Garcia in the 72nd minute, Mallorca equalized in the 87th through Kevin.
Atletico Madrid take a short break from league action Thursday when they pay a visit to Getafe for the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie in which los Rojiblancos 3-0 on aggregate.  
Now sitting 11 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, Atletico will look to close the gap when they welcome Real Zaragoza to the Calderon this Sunday.

Club America
Los Aguilas opened the 2013 Clausura campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Monterrey Saturday afternoon in Mexico City. Ecuadorian midfielder Walter Avoyi put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the 15th minute before America’s Jesus Molina equalized in the 39th.

With the match looking like it would end in a 1-1 draw, America was granted a late penalty kick which Rubens Sambueza converted in the 94th minute to clinch the three points.
The club will hope to continue it’s one-hundred percent record when they visit Jaguares this Friday.

Besiktas
Turkish side Besiktas most recently fell 2-0 to German side Wolfsburg in a friendly match this past Sunday. They’ll continue their winter break before returning to Super Lig action January 19 in a derby match against Istanbul BB.

Raja Casablanca
Raja Casablanca maintained their GNF league lead with a convincing 4-1, win over Difaa El Jadida this past Sunday. This upcoming Sunday, they will try to keep their slim league lead against lowly Raja Beni Mellal.  
 

04 January 7:15 pm

First, a warm welcome to the newest member of the Chicago Fire, midfielder Joel Lindpere.

The move to acquire the Estonian international was met with pretty high praise from yours truly, considering all that was exchanged was an international roster spot. Also consider that the guy has scored a few goals against the Fire since coming to MLS (three to be exact and four if you count a preseason goal he scored back in 2011). 

That aside, here are five other reasons I can really appreciate the move for the club's latest addition...

He’s the very definition of an iron man – In a total of 98 MLS regular season matches he’s been eligible for over the last three seasons, Lindpere has appeared in exactly 97 games, the most of any MLS player in that time span. That also includes goalkeepers.  

Players on the current Fire roster with comparable MLS appearances over the last three MLS seasons: Dominic Oduro (93 with Chicago/Houston), Patrick Nyarko (91, Chicago), Logan Pause (87, Chicago) and Wells Thompson (79, Colorado/Chicago).


Lindpere has 3 goals in 7 games vs. the Fire

There’s a certain swagger he has… He looks intimidating and the Estonian international has a certain bite that backs up the way he carries himself. His aggression and ability in the attack reminds me a bit of Dema Kovalenko, though with a few less yellow cards.…

He has a pretty powerful left foot – Watch the video below. He’s a threat in crossing the ball but can also unleash a pretty powerful shot. Combine this acquisition with that of Maicon Santos and the power in attack has been greatly upgraded.

Competition (and rest) in the midfield – The biggest knock against the Fire in 2012 was the perceived lack of enough squad rotation. By season’s end, the team looked a little bit tired and perhaps slightly predictable. With the likes of Nyarko, Alvaro Fernandez, Alex and the potential return of Corben Bone, the attacking midfield options available to Klopas in times of heavy fixture congestion have been upgraded as well.

Good Results from transactions with Red Bull – Back in 2007 when Fire owner Andrew Hauptman filed tampering charges with New York relating to the Juan Carlos Osorio affair, the team received the Red Bulls’ first round selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft which the team used to select the-ever dangerous Patrick Nyarko.

Just about a year ago, the Fire traded the rights of defender Wilman Conde to Red Bull in exchanged for an undisclosed, but rumored to be high amount of allocation money that presumably went towards the acquisitions of defender Arne Friedrich and forward Chris Rolfe.

Not a bad track record…

WATCH: Joel Lindpere Highlights

02 January 12:14 pm

In this edition of Burning Questions, we sat down with Fire left back Gonzalo Segares. A native of San Jose, Costa Rica, Gonzalo has been capped 19 times for Los Ticos. The club's Defender of the Year in 2007, Gonzalo returns in 2013 for his ninth season with the Men in Red. The newlywed took the time to answer our Burning Questions about wedding themed movies, his infamous sweet tooth and the worst actor in Hollywood.

Always on the Inside: You got married this past December. What is the best movie that features a wedding: “Wedding Crashers”, “The Wedding Singer”, “The Hangover” or “Bridesmaids”?

Gonzalo Segares: Definitely the first “Hangover”.


Gonzalo and Rusti married December 15

AOTI: It’s pretty well documented that you’re a fan of baked goods. If you could only choose to have one pastry for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

GS: Can it be chocolate? Chocolate bars. Like Crunch, Kit Kat or Snickers. I like chocolate with stuff in it, especially almonds or any kind of nut, except for peanuts.

AOTI: What do you miss most about Costa Rica?

GS: The weather. I love it here in Chicago during the summer but in the winter, I just hate the cold weather. Back home we only have two seasons, which is summer and winter, and the winter is only rainy. The temperature doesn’t change that much. The average is usually in the 70s or 80s.

AOTI: How often do you use the phrase “pura vida?”

GS: I use it a lot if I’m talking to Costa Ricans when I’m home. I don’t use it that often in Chicago because when the guys speak Spanish, it’s not part of their slang.

AOTI: You attended Virginia Commonwealth University with current Fire teammate Dominic Oduro. What’s one thing that people don’t know about Dom?

GS: He was very, very, very shy. And now all of a sudden, he’s not shy.

AOTI: Do you have any phobias?

GS: When it starts shaking on the plane, I definitely get nervous.


Gonzalo's not a fan of John C. Reilly

AOTI: Who is the worst actor in Hollywood?

GS: There are a lot of them. I would say maybe the guy that’s in movies with Will Ferrell. He usually has a mustache. He’s in the cartoon movie where he doesn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, “Wreck it Ralph”. In “Talladega Nights” he’s the friend and he’s also in “Step Brothers” with Will Ferrell. I think he’s very, very bad.

Editors Note: As Gonzalo provides very good clues, we have deducted that he is referring to John C. Reilly.

AOTI: You can invite any three people to dinner. Who receives an exclusive invitation?

GS: I would definitely invite Messi. And also Michael Jordan and President Obama.

 

 

 

31 December 10:44 am

Well its the last day of the year and we're aptly left remembering all that went down in the Fire world during 2012. 

A new jersey sponsor, a Ring of Fire induction, a 15th Anniversary, playoff qualification and a Rookie of the Year winner are just some of the highlights. 

Take a photographic look back on the club's memorable 15th season:

officialfiresoccer's 2012 In Review album on Photobucket

Stay tuned on Tuesday as I give my New Year's Resolutions for the Fire in 2013!

13 December 5:34 pm

Major League Soccer today released the final list of players eligible for Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry process to take place via teleconference Friday afternoon at 2pm CT.

Midfielder Corben Bone, defender Dan Gargan and goalkeeper Jay Nolly remained on the list from the Fire after passing through the Stage One draft last Friday. Of course the Fire were the only team to select a player in that draft, picking Brazilian forward Maicon Santos. 

The Stage Two draft typically has more activity as teams who select players on Friday can negotiate their salaries. In Stage Two, teams cannot select their own players until after all 18 other teams have passed on them.

Players that pass through Friday's draft without getting picked are free to sign with any MLS team on a first-come, first-served basis. If you're at all still confused, I explained the entire Re-Entry Process in this blog last Friday

The list of the 49 eligible players for Re-Entry is below. Salary numbers are from the most recent report by the MLS Players Union.

This is probably a weaker Re-Entry Field than we've seen in the two previous versions. Given the three players the Fire have exposed to the draft and considering the moves made so far this offseason (re-signing Arne Friedrich and Gonzalo Segares; acquiring Maicon Santos), who, if anyone would you want to see the Fire take in Stage Two tomorrow? 

Tell us in the comments below...

Team Player Position 2012 Base Salary
CHI Jay Nolly GK $78,250
CHI Corben Bone M $100,000
CHI Dan Gargan  D $88,000
CHV Juan Pablo Angel F $350,000
CHV Peter Vagenas M $70,000
CHV Danny Califf D $275,000
CHV Alejandro Moreno F $185,000
CLB Will Hesmer GK $170,000
CLB Julius James D $100,000
COL Tyrone Marshall D $90,000
COL Scott Palguta D $63,670
COL Conor Casey F $400,000
COL Hunter Freeman D $105,000
COL Jamie Smith M $148,992
COL Ian Joyce GK $44,004
COL Joseph Nane M $44,100
COL Tyson Wahl D $65,000
DC Mike Chabala D $75,000
DAL  Bruno Guarda M $60,000
DAL Kevin Hartman GK $165,000
DAL Julian De Guzman M $1,863,996
DAL Scott Sealy F $50,004
HOU Colin Clark M $105,427
KC Olukorede Aiyebusi D $44,100
KC Luke Sassano M/D $81,000
LA Chad Barrett F $220,000
LA Andrew Boyens D $62,500
LA Bryan Jordan F $55,000
LA Pat Noonan F $70,000
MTL Shavar Thomas D $80,000
NE Tim Murray GK $44,100
NE Blair Gavin M $60,000
NY Bill Gaudette GK $60,000
NY Stephen Keel D $65,000
PHI Chase Harrison GK $44,000
POR Lovel Palmer M $85,000
RSL Paulo Araujo, Jr. F $65,000
SEA Andrew Weber GK $51,996
SEA Mike Seamon M $33,750
SJ Jean Alexandre M $44,100
SJ Tim Ward D $65,000
SJ Ramiro Corrales M $173,250
SJ Joseph Gjertsen M $85,000
SJ Khari Stephenson M $190,000
TOR Eric Avila M $125,000
TOR Adrian Cann D $126,000
TOR Ty Harden D $90,000
VAN John Thorrington  M $170,000

 

07 December 11:04 am

Despite going into its third-year of existence, the MLS Re-Entry process still leaves plenty of folks scratching their heads every December. I'll try to explain the ins and outs ahead of today's Stage One Draft...

What is it? 

The Re-Entry Process is confusing because its also unique in terms of North American sport. The idea came as a compromise to help settle the latest Collect Bargaining Agreement in early 2010. 

In essence, the Re-Entry Process is Major League Soccer's form of free agency, allowing players that meet certain requirements the opportunity to test the waters of moving to another team. Prior to the signing of the current CBA, teams still held league rights to players that were out of contract, meaning that in order for a player to move, a team would need to waive his rights or a trade would have to occur.

Under the new terms, players that have played a minimum of three years in MLS and are at least 23 years of age are eligible for the annual Re-Entry process should their current team decline their option or if they're out of contract. Full eligibility requirements for players can be found in Section II.G here.

There are two stages to the Re-Entry Process, each with different caveats...

Explaining Stage One

Thursday night MLS released the final list of players eligible for Stage One of the 2012 Re-Entry Process set for Friday at 2 p.m. CT. Prior to the release, players had up until 4 p.m. CT Thursday to opt out of the draft.

This was the case for Gonzalo Segares, who re-signed with the club on Thursday. With that transaction, two Fire players, midfielder Corben Bone and goalkeeper Jay Nolly, remained on the list of 52 players eligible for selection.

UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. CT, Fire defender Dan Gargan was added to the Stage One Re-Entry list by the league.

Teams that pick players at Stage One on Friday must exercise the option (pick up the player's salary), or in the case of out of contract players, extend a Bona Fide Offer to, the player. If the player rejects the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS (the player's league rights). Teams may not select their own players in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft.

Held via conference call, generally Stage One of the Re-Entry Process is a quick affair, with only five players having been selected in the previous two stages combined. This is generally because of the first caveat above, by which a team must pick up the salary of a player's whose option hae been declined (the majority of players available fall under this category). 

Players that are not selected in Stage One are then able to come back to the table with their club and negotiate up until a second blackout period begins on Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. CT. 

After passing through the first stage of Re-Entry in 2010, Jovan Kirovski re-negotiated his contract to stay with the LA Galaxy another season, prior to Stage Two.

Expaining Stage Two

This is where the magic happens as Stage Two of the Re-Entry Process is one of the biggest days of player movement within the league every year. 

In 2010, 11 players were chosen in Stage Two while 10 were take in 2011. 

Set for next Friday, December 14 at 2 p.m. CT, players that are selected in Stage Two can negotiate a new salary with the team that has chosen them. As long as that salary is deemed as a genuine offer by MLS, the team retains the player's league rights.

A genuine offer must be placed within seven days of selection, though a signing doesn't necessarily need to happen in that time as negotiations can continue.

A team is eliminated from Stage Two once they pass on their turn. A team can only select it's own player once all other clubs have passed on that player. 

Players that pass through both stages of the Re-Entry process are deemed free agents and available on a first-come, first-served basis to all MLS teams.

Fire History in the Re-Entry Process

The Fire have selected two players through the Re-Entry Process and both had different cases.

In 2010, the team selected recently retired defender Cory Gibbs (right) from New England and immediately announced his signing. This was able to happen as the team and player had already agreed to terms in the case that Gibbs was selected to come to Chicago.

In 2011, the Fire picked forward Kheli Dube, also from New England but the Zimbabwean forward didn't sign a contract with the club until late January as the two parties negotiated terms of the deal.

The team has also had two players selected from it in the Re-Entry Process.

In 2011, the Fire saw midfielder Baggio Husidic and goalkeeper Jon Conway chosen in Stage Two by the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy respectively. Neither player signed with those clubs as Husidic elected to sign for Swedish side Hammarby while Conway announced his retirement. 

 

06 December 12:32 pm

In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi. The former Inter Milan youth product earned a spot on the Fire roster after impressing the technical staff during preseason and started the first three games of the 2012, posting a shutout while helping the team to a 1-1-1 record. Prior to heading back  for offseason in Milan, Paolo took the time to answer our Burning Questions about the worst American fashion trend, the best Italian restaurants in Chicago and his favorite MLS away city.
 

Always on the Inside: Favorite thing to do in the summer here in Chicago?
 
Paolo Tornaghi: It’s nice in the summer to go to the lake and the beach. I like to ride my bike on the bike path from Navy Pier to North Beach.
 
AOTI: Have you checked out any of the Italian restaurants here in Chicago? What’s the best one and how does it compare?
 
PT: There are a couple. One is Prosecco and one is Marcello. It’s like home.
 
AOTI: Do you cook? If so, what is your specialty?
 
PT: Not too much but I do cook. The easiest is pasta.
 
AOTI: You’re from Milan, which is considered one of the fashion capitals of the world. What’s your favorite place to shop?
 
PT: There’s the coast of Vittorio Emanuele. It’s a beautiful street with a lot of stores. It’s not very, very expensive but it’s nice.
 
AOTI: What is the worst American fashion trend?
 
PT: There are a lot but I think the shirts are too wide. They’re not fitted to the body.
 
AOTI: Which of your teammates is the best and worst dressed?
 
PT: I think Pavel Pardo is the best, because he has the European style. I don’t want to say a worst, I’m too respectful.
 
AOTI: You recently tweeted that you were having surgery on your finger. How’s the new finger?
 
PT: It’s heavier. There’s a lot of iron inside.
 
AOTI: What’s your favorite MLS away city that you visited this season?
 
PT: New York. It was my first time there. We went to Times Square and it was beautiful with all the lights.

05 December 12:04 pm

The club announced today that starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson started a three week training stint in England earlier today, beginning with Premier League club Stoke City (Dec. 5-9) before joining U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard and coach Chris Woods at Everton FC (December 10-23) for the second straight offseason.

I caught up with Sean Wednesday morning to talk how his first session went with Stoke, his third offseason abroad and what matches he’ll be taking in over the next few weeks.

Jeff Crandall: Sean, over the past three years you’ve spent parts of your offseason in Spain, Germany and England, do you feel tired at all or is the experience too good to pass up?

Sean Johnson: No, I don’t feel tired at all. I love taking in these experiences and I’ve learned over the past couple years how to deal with the management of my offseason.

It’s about soaking in the experience but also getting the rest and recover enough to be ready to go 100 percent for the season.

JC: What is Stoke like so far?

SJ: I think it’s been a great experience working with guys like Thomas Sorensen, Asmir Begovic and Carlo Nash.

Training with their goalkeeper coach and getting the chance to play and train with the guys at the top level. Just seeing how another team operates gives you perspective.

JC: Have you hung out with your U.S. Men’s National teammates Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron yet?

SJ:  I’ve hung out with both of them. I’m actually staying with Maurice at the moment. They’re great guys to be around and it’s just good to see familiar faces and make most of the time you have with your friends while you’re over here.

JC: Next week you head to Everton for the second consecutive offseason. How important is it for you to have guys like Tim Howard and Chris Woods working with you there?

 

WATCH: Sean Johnson #4 in MLS 24 under 24

SJ: Having been in with the national team a lot more this past year, training with Chris and Tim again here is a fantastic opportunity to keep some continuity and show how I’m growing.

To be in that environment day-in and day-out and make yourself a better goalkeeper will do wonders for me as a player.

JC: What games are you taking in the next few weeks?

SJ: I’m going to try and take in as many games as I can. This weekend’s lineup has Stoke going to Aston Villa on Saturday and then Everton hosts Tottenham on Sunday at Goodison Park so it works out well. Manchester United also player Man City in a derby match on Sunday so there’s a lot of excitement for that as well.

Depending on how things work out, I’ll hopefully go to a few more games while I’m here. It’s great to go to those stadiums and see everything that goes into a match.

JC: You end your time with Everton just before Christmas. What are you doing with the rest of your time before preseason begins on January 18?

SJ: I’m going to be back in Atlanta through Christmas and maybe New Years. I caught up with the family for a week over Thanksgiving and planned to be there longer.

Because I was coming over here I decided to go down to Florida for a week by myself to get away and be able to get ready for this experience.

JC: Great to hear from you Sean. We’ll talk soon.

SJ: Have a good one!